, Salem, MA

January 17, 2013

Our view: Salem's gem of a library

The Salem News

---- — It comes as no surprise to us that the Salem Public Library has the largest circulation of any library in the area.

Salem loaned out nearly half a million items last year, outpacing not only larger cities, including those with multiple branch libraries, but nine college and university libraries. In fact, it’s held the North of Boston Library Exchange record for a number of years.

All this in a single building with no parking lot, and only a few on-street spaces in an area that is mostly residents-only parking.

True, it’s open a lot of hours, including Sunday afternoons, and has lots of programs to attract children and families. But so do many other libraries. Yes, it has made an effort to reach out to non-English speakers, as well as to those needing computer access and new technology, such as e-books — as many other libraries have. And it is blessed with a private endowment that has helped it weather financial hard times that have hurt other libraries.

But if we had to cite just one asset that distinguishes this library, it would have to be what is usually known as customer service. The staff here is not just welcoming, but incredibly helpful. Salem News reporters are among the many who’ve called the local reference desk seeking to check some obscure bit of information and got an enthusiastic and prompt response. You almost feel like you’re doing them a favor by asking for help.

Of course, the Salem library has always been one of our favorite places. It’s nice to know lots of other folks feel the same way.